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Story by Zakiya Austin and Destiny White, photo by Zakiya Austin

The Dutch Fork theatre program is a laid back set of courses that prepare students for performance based careers or just provide personal enjoyment.

“We play games that help us with our acting or games that’ll help us get to know everybody,” junior Aquil Trent said.

Much of the success of this award winning program is due to its advisor, Jessica Fichter.

“We always have so much fun traveling to festivals and competitions.  It is so nice to see what other high schools are doing and get to watch theatre as a group,” Drama teacher Jessica Fichter said.

Fichter has not stopped acting and performing herself, sometimes performing with her students. If she had not been a teacher, she pondered, she’d have been an actress or director.

“I love physical comedy- and on the other end of the spectrum gritty, emotional roles,” said Fichter.

Her students love her because of her outside-the-box teaching methods and her funny stories.

“I like to play the games that Mrs.Fichter gives us, like cross the river and toss the fruit basket,” freshman David Rush said, “and she tells a lot of funny stories of her previous classes.”

Many of her students, freshmen to seniors, can attest to her very different class atmosphere.

“Every teacher teaches differently and Mrs. Fichter is definitely different,” Aquil said.

Taking time to help her students and making them feel comfortable both in class and on stage is a key part of her curriculum.

“My best memory would be when I was doing my monologues and I was having trouble and she came up and help me recite it which help me but emotion in my scenes,” senior Dayana Boston said.

Taking each obstacle and challenge as a learning experience, Fichter takes strides toward better opportunity for her students.

I think that every show I have had the opportunity to work on has taught me something as an artist.  I think Into the Woods surprised me with how difficult it was to direct but in the end the work was well worth it,” Fichter said.

An upbeat learning environment full of laughing and games help students absorb the material and perfect their individual acting style.

“[I like] the activities that we do. We focus on memorization and keep our attention on one thing at a time,” sophomore Nylah Leapheart said.

Just like her student’s are learning and growing, Fichter finds being a teacher has it own growth properties.

I believe that my students are teaching me as often as I am teaching them.  The collaborative process of creating art with my students is so beneficial to my understanding of myself as a director and actress,” Fichter said.

For many students, having Mrs. Fichter as a teacher has been an unforgettable experience that they have ultimately grown from.

“It’s impacted me a lot because it taught me to judge myself but not to be too critical,” Dayana said.

Both Aquil and Nylah told stories of how Fichter helped them to conquer stage fright and improve their acting skills. The style of the class and personality of the teacher is what makes the class most comfortable and enjoyable.

“I would say the way she teaches is my best memory of her or like the way her class is like the way she teaches her class, ” Aquil said.

With getting to know Mrs. Fichter, students admit that drama wouldn’t be the same without her.

“Mrs. Fichter teaches us to be very comfortable and I think with a different teacher I wouldn’t be as comfortable,” Dayana said.